The Youth Worker and the Janitor

So I had a pretty interesting experience today.

Before we left for the convention, the kids had collected 1,621 food items in our thanksgiving scavenger hunt. That's a lot of feeding people we're going to do! So today, we were gearing up to deliver the food (or, as it turned out, the half we could get to). As I was loading up the food on the bus, one of the containers of Chicken Broth exploded, leaving a pool of chickeny goodness all over the floor of our bus. This has allowed me to finally utter one of the sentences I've been waiting for in youth ministry:

"And that is why the bus smells like chicken soup."

So after driving the food to SHIM, I brought the bus back to the church for a meeting, and decided I needed to mop it out before going any further with my life. Now, here's the thing about our church. We have an excellent team of janitors, who do an excellent job, but are impossible to find when you need them. There are walkie talkies that supposedly will get them to you in a hurry. It's lies. Plus, where I had parked the bus was nowhere near a walkie. So I decided it was just easier to get the mop myself and clean out the bus.

I took off my blazer in the bus, revealing my neat looking but pretty grungy t-shirt. I walked back to the janitor's closet, grabbed the mop and all it's glorious bucketry, and started to walk towards the bus. Just then, a member of our counseling center saw me, looked at my shirt, looked at the bucket, and kindly asked me to clean up the bathrooms just outside his office.

He had no idea who I was.

He thought I was the janitor.

But here's the thing, and what I think makes it an interesting experience. I didn't mind. First of all, it's not like there's any less value to the ministry that janitors perform in churches. If it ain't clean, people ain't coming! But more than that, I was thinking about this quote that I heard in high school about leaders.

There are really two types of leaders:

The first walks into a bathroom, discovers an absolute disaster zone in the stall, and screams in disgust while running to find the nearest person to "lead" into cleaning the mess.

The second might moan for a second, and then steps on the flush. That's true leadership.

Now, I didn't clean the bathroom for this guy, and I'd like to think it's because one of the actual janitorial staff came by and did it for me. But I totally would have! Because though I know some of us in youth ministry feel under-apreciated for what we do, I don't think that's license to feel more deserving than we are. What's wrong with picking up a mop and cleaning out the church bus every now and again?

So maybe you don't have to scrub toilets, but take some time in the coming weeks to think about how you can serve the church. Not just by throwing a dodgeball, but by stepping into a new role for yourself, and maybe stepping into someone else's shoes.

Some food for thought:

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

7 Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

8 "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

9 "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

10 Jesus answered, "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.